SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection is releasing information related to what it calls a “significant smuggling attempt” after discovering two live toucans wrapped in stockings hidden inside a traveler’s purse.
According to CBP, the incident took place at about 4 p.m., on Dec. 26.
A CBP officer reportedly encountered two travelers, a 35-year-old male and a 37-year-old female, in a 2015 Toyota Camry as they tried to enter the U.S. through the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego.
CBP says the officer referred both travelers and the vehicle to secondary inspection where a government agriculture specialist found two live birds, later identified as toucans, wrapped in stockings and concealed inside a traveler’s bag.
“Smuggling live animals, especially endangered species, is a serious offense and this significant seizure demonstrates the lengths a smuggler will go for their own financial gain,” said Jenifer De La O, CBP Director of Field Operations in San Diego. “Our officers and agriculture specialists work hard every day to stop these horrible acts and protect our wildlife species for future generations to enjoy.”
According to the Petzlover.com website, toucans can sell for up to $17,000.
CBP says both travelers who were caught with the birds, were detained and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for processing.
Department of Homeland Security Investigators and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services are said to be handling the investigation.
The live toucans were “placed in a secure and safe area where they will remain in quarantine for veterinarian examination and proper disposition.”
Border Report reached out to CBP to check on the status and well-being of the birds, but were told U.S. Fish and Wildlife was handling all media inquiries. So far, the agency has not responded with any information about the toucans.